The last time Ricky Knapp started at Cashman Field, he was battered for 12 runs in less than five innings against Fresno.
But since that start on July 17, Knapp has now given up just three runs in his past 20 innings spanning three starts.
His first start out after that, he was a tough-luck loser, giving up just two runs in seven innings but taking the loss. His next start, he gave up just one run in 6 2/3 innings.
And Tuesday, he threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings as the 51s beat the Sky Sox 3-0 at Cashman Field.
“I think the common denominator here in the last three starts is I’ve definitely been working on picking up my tempo (and) making sure that me and (catcher Kevin) Plawecki have kind of a game plan on guys and once I step on the mound, it’s not necessarily thinking about the game plan as much as it is executing the pitch,” Knapp said.
Knapp said he’s also been having more success getting the ball inside lately.
“When I’m inside a lot, they have to respect that I can go in there for a strike and then also I’m in there for a ball and maybe get some swings. I was able to do that today,” Knapp said. “I wasn’t necessarily ahead in the count on everybody but I was able to make some quality pitches after some really good misses.”
He held Colorado Springs (64-43), one of the top teams in the Pacific Coast League, to just four hits and was able to avoid the big inning that has plagued him in so many of his other starts.
The sixth inning looked like it could have been his undoing as the first two runners reached base. After getting Nate Orf to line out to center, Knapp looked like he would get out of the inning with a double play ball.
But 51s (41-69) couldn’t convert. Knapp then walked Andrew Susac to load the bases, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. After a visit from pitching coach Frank Viola, Knapp got Chris Colabello to hit a hard liner to third, ending the threat.
“I think the last three outings we’ve seen it where he’s pounding the strike zone with everything he’s got and he’s not giving too much credit to hitters,” manager Pedro Lopez said. “Not to take anything away from their guys and whoever he’s faced the last three outings, I think he’s faced good hitters, but he knows that he’s got good stuff and he’s just going at them with the best he’s got.”
Knapp got all the offense he needed with the 51s jumping out to a lead in the first inning on a Plawecki RBI double.
They scored two more runs in the third inning on back-to-back RBI hits from Dominic Smith (triple) and Plawecki (single).
The victory marked the 51s’ first four-game series win since May 19-22 against New Orleans, though this one came against a significantly better team.
“It’s about time the 51s are about to get hot. August will hopefully bring better things,” Knapp said. “That’s all we can look forward to.”
Who: Oklahoma City Dodgers at Las Vegas 51s
When: 7:05 p.m. Thursday
Where: Cashman Field
Starters: Fabio Castillo (4-6, 4.41 ERA) vs. Mitch Atkins (2-5, 9.17 ERA)
Friday: Oklahoma City at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Oklahoma City at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Oklahoma City at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Monday: Reno at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Reno at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
The 51s are off Wednesday as part of a Pacific Coast League-wide off-day. … Five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez will come through Las Vegas with the Oklahoma City Dodgers on rehab. Gonzalez was placed on the disabled list on June 13 with a herniated disc.
Contact Betsy Helfand at email@example.com. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.